Saints offensive tackle Trevor Penning endured a delayed start to his career, missing New Orleans' first 11 regular-season games with turf toe. A Lisfranc injury and subsequent surgery then derailed his offseason, forcing him out of nearly the entirety of the team's offseason workouts.
The 2022 No. 19 overall pick has been active in training camp, though, and he's already experienced indications that his nagging foot injuries could be drifting into the rearview.
"Probably the first couple of practices, I was always like, 'Shoot, I hope this is going to feel good,'" Penning said, per the team’s website. "I've heard with my injury a lot of soreness comes with it usually, but I haven't noticed any of that. It's pretty much normal. It doesn't bother me really at all, that's a really good sign."
Maintaining his health throughout camp and taking as many reps as possible would be a boon to both Penning and the Saints' O-line.
Penning played just 124 offensive snaps last year, so he's still green, and although his PFF run-blocking grade was promising (80.2), he disappointed with a 38.7 in pass blocking -- albeit over a small sample size.
But even those who aren't tapped into the intricacies of play in the trenches might recall Penning for how he burst onto the scene before injuries struck and limited his opportunities as a rookie.
By this time last year, Penning had already involved himself in three altercations in a three-day period during training camp, earning an ejection from practice for his final one.
His signature edge hasn't gone anywhere in 2023, but Penning has kept a lid on despite still playing his way.
"I'd say I'm kind of the same guy, but obviously, got to keep my teammates safe and play smart," he said. "I'm still going to keep that aggressive side to me, that's kind of my trademark of how I play. That's how I've always played and how I envision offensive linemen should play. I just play my game and if they don't like it, so be it."
His new quarterback, Derek Carr, has taken notice of the fire.
"He's a very violent individual," Carr said of Penning. "He wants to be physical, he wants to assert his dominance in the run game, in the pass game, all those kinds of things. Cool thing too is, (defensive end) Cam (Jordan) came up to him, was talking to him about something after our set, and you hear him like, 'Oh, yeah, yeah, I got you. That makes sense.' So as aggressive as he is, he's also willing to learn and grow as a player. I'm excited about him.
"He's a different cat, but you don't want everyone to be normal in the front when they're protecting you."
The differences in Penning's start to Year 2 appear to be striking the right tune. He's feeling healthy and bringing controlled anger to his play.
The next step is keeping it that way while keeping Carr upright as the Saints attempt to wrest back control of the NFC South.